Exploration Forensics Update 2


This semester, the exploration forensics group is researching hardware and software that tests for paranormal activity. The team will test the devices and corresponding apps. Through these tests, they will discover how the devices gather readings and interact with a user’s data. In addition, the team will gather evidence on how the devices and applications operate and examine the accuracy of the sensors. If you haven’t read the team’s first blog post, find it here.

The last few weeks involved jail breaking the tablets, testing the devices, and becoming familiar with Radare2.

Radare2 and Testing on Free Apps

A large part of the last two weeks involved the team learning how to use Radare2. The ARM assembly language used for this software can be difficult to make sense of.

Figure 1: Radare2 interface

There are many free programs available to interpret IOS applications, but the team chose Radare2 because of its reputation as a respectable open-source disassembler. The first few days with the software was exploratory and experimental. The team tried “challenges” found online to gain understanding of the language and the program.

When the team felt ready to begin testing on the freeware IOS apps, there were problems locating the .ipa file. An .ipa file is an IOS archive file that stores the application information and data in binary. Due to this roadblock, no testing was done with the free applications before last week. The team instead focused efforts on figuring out how to extract the .ipa files from the iPad. Previous research indicated that extracting the files through iTunes would not be difficult. When the team tried to get the .ipa file for the apps Ghost Sensor and EMF recorder, the folder needed did not exist.

The team spent several days researching alternate ways to extract the .ipa files, but most tutorials use the previous versions of iTunes. Due to this, the team explored other programs used to decompile and extract information from apps.

The last shift before spring break was spent surfing various forums to find alternate ways into the .ipa files. Cydia, which was used to jailbreak the device, has additional add-ons available. The software “ipainstaller” allows for backup and management of ipa files on IOS devices. The team found a forum that explains how to use the extension. Once the extension was downloaded, finding the .ipa files were straightforward and the team was able to make copies of them.

Figure 2: The team used PuTTY and ipainstaller to extract the .ipa file

This week, the team will be investigating the .ipa files in Radare2 to examine the sensors and permissions.

Preliminary Testing

The team also began tests on the Ovilus V this period. While the original plan was to observe packets sent by the Ovilus, the newest Ovilus model does not have networking capabilities. This model replaced the network card with a larger speaker. Because of this, the team is investigating the capabilities of the device’s sensors instead.

The first test on the Ovilus attempted to create false-positives through the use of magnets. The Ovilus tests for many environmental factors, including temperature, humidity, barometric readings, electromagnetic fields, and movement. The device converts these readings into words, according to DigitalDowsing.com. The team hopes to cross-reference the measurements on the Ovilus to a second measurement to confirm accuracy. They also hope to try to spoof these readings to see the effect on the sensors.

The team took a magnet out of a broken hard drive in the lab to use in experimentation on the Ovilus. These powerful magnets should disrupt any magnetic field measurement, and we’re hoping to create false-positives to see how much these magnets can affect the sensors on the Ovilus.

Figure 3: Breaking open an old hard drive to salvage magnets


Despite the roadblocks the team has experienced, there are many alternatives to the original research plan. Currently, investigation into alternate ways of accessing the iPad’s file system seems promising. In addition, the team plans to continue experimenting with the Paranormal Puck device and app, and testing on the Ovilus. Post any feedback, questions, or general comments in the comment section below! Interested in our research? Follow the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation (LCDI) on Twitter @ChampForensics, Instagram @ChampForensics and Facebook @ChamplainLCDI.